2017 was a strange year for Chicago’s NBA franchise.
The calendar year opened in the midst of a draining season led by the “Three Alphas”, a year that saw Rajon Rondo benched, Dwanye Wade age three years right before our eyes, and Jimmy Butler treat every teammate like the last pick at recess.
The season ended with the Bulls sneaking into the playoffs, stealing two road games against the Eastern Conference’s #1 seed before the Celtics awoke from their slumber to win four straight and send the Bulls packing.
Two months later, Jimmy Butler was traded, Rondo’s option was declined shortly thereafter and the Bulls bought out Wade’s contract in September.
Then October and November of 2017 provided a 3-20 basketball team.
The Bulls have since won 10 out of 14, including an eight game win streak, which has both inspired optimism and disrupted the organization’s tanking plans.
But we aren’t here to debate the past, we’re here to look forward to what the future holds for Bulls basketball. So, without further ado, here are three Bulls predictions for the 2018 year.
1-Lauri Markkanen will make the All-Rookie Team
The 2017-18 rookie class has produced some promising youngsters, with Markkanen being one of the headliners. He has some stiff competition for All-Rookie team honors, though.
The class is headlined, ironically, by a 2016 draft pick who missed all of last season to an injury. 76ers rookie Ben Simmons has put together the most complete debut season so far, the former #1 pick is likely to be rookie of the year.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) December 31, 2017
Behind Simmons there is Jazz forward Donovan Mitchell leading all rookies in scoring at 18.2 points a game, followed closely by Lakers first round pick Kyle Kuzma at 17.5 ppg. Speaking of the Lakers, Big Baler Brand icon Lonzo Ball has battled the hype to put up a 10-7-7 line thus far. As the #2 overall pick plus his name recognition, Ball might earn a spot on the All-Rookie roster if he can improve that 35% field goal shooting.
#3 overall pick Jayson Tatum has made an immediate impact on the Eastern Conference leading Boston Celtics, scoring 14 a game and shooting 47% from deep.
— NBA Draft (@NBADraft) December 28, 2017
Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. is putting up respectable numbers, and he’s also a straight up dunk machine.
That leaves us Lauri, who is currently averaging 14.7 ppg, which is fourth among rookies, and 7.4 rpg while shooting almost 35% from 3-point range. After a scorching first month, teams have locked in a bit more on the Finnish forward and we’ve seen a bit of a decline as a result. However, things could be back on the upswing after he recorded a career high 32 points in a win last week against the Pacers.
Markkanen’s field goal % took a nose dive in December, and by the look of his pure, pretty shooting stroke it should be fair to assume that the law of averages will pull the rookie’s numbers up as the season progresses. Better shooting luck alone should make him a 15+ a game scorer, and with more opportunities in the event that Nikola Mirotic is traded, his numbers could reach Kuzma-Mitchell scoring territory.
At the end of the year, I’m willing to bet Markkanen will join Simmons, Mitchell, Kuzma and Tatum on the All-Rookie Team.
2-Mirotic and Robin Lopez only have 15 games remaining as Bulls
The NBA trade deadline is a little over a month away, and the Bulls have two legitimate trade pieces that should have a lot of teams interested.
Since returning from a broken face on December 8th, Mirotic is averaging over 18 and 7 on 50.3% shooting and 46.6% shooting from 3, all of which would be career highs. The 29 year old Lopez not only brings size and a great locker room presence to the table, he is also averaging a career high in scoring at 12.9 a game.
It remains to be seen what these two players would yield in return if traded, or if a team would take both of them in a single trade given their salaries. But given the Bulls desire to rebuild through the draft, it would be a surprise to see Mirotic and Lopez still in Chicago after the February 8th trade deadline.
3-The Bulls will have a top 3 pick
The Bulls recent run of success has them currently slotted to draft 7th in this years draft, only one game in the loss column from the 10th slot. Given their current trajectory and Zach Lavine’s upcoming return, the Bulls seem more likely to be drafting outside of the top 10 than inside the top 5.
However, given the likelihood that the Bulls will be trading Mirotic and Lopez within a month, coupled with the odds that they will be taking things extremely cautious with Lavine and his ACL recovery, a long stretch of losing is likely in the Bulls near future.
Let’s not forget this team started out 3-20… the Bulls aren’t going to play a better month of basketball than they did in December. Don’t count on this team winning more than 15 games the rest of the way, and then keep your fingers crossed that the ping pong balls bounce in the Bulls favor come lottery time.